Missouri Business Headlines

Giving product lawsuits reasonable time limits

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Sen. Riddle

In Missouri, companies can be held liable for products sold decades ago — even if they aren’t the original manufacturer. This creates a major burden for retailers, who may be forced to indefinitely defend products if the company that made the product has since gone out of business.

On Jan. 21, a Missouri Senate committee heard legislation to give these lawsuits a reasonable time limit, commonly called a “statute of repose.”

Without a statute of repose, innocent retailers frequently become a target for trial attorneys.

2020 Missouri Chamber Business Champion Sen. Jeanie Riddle (R-Fulton) is sponsoring Senate Bill 7 to address this problem.

With common-sense exceptions, the bill would place reasonable time limits on product liability lawsuits in the state, requiring actions to be filed within 15 years of the sale or lease of the product.

The issue has long been one of the Missouri Chamber’s legal reform priorities.

“We’ve worked on this bill for several years and appreciate Sen. Riddle bringing this forward again. We do think it strikes a good balance with a 15-year outer limit that is more generous than other states have,” said Matthew Panik, Missouri Chamber vice president of governmental affairs.

The legislation has been previously filed and debated and advocates hope it can be finally passed into law in 2021.

“We must all agree that the objects in our lives cannot be expected to last forever, and thus we must not put an undue burden on our manufacturers — keeping them on the hook for something they made half a century ago,” Sen. Riddle said.

Questions about the statute of repose or other legal reform issues? Contact Panik at (573) 634-3511 or mpanik@mochamber.com.

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